Blog: Localisation under the looking glass; a feminist perspective

  • Date: 17/12/2019
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

On Tuesday December the 10th, ActionAid Ireland and Oxfam Ireland co-hosted a seminar in UCD which was supported by the Dochas Humanitarian Aid Working Group (HAWG). The day was entitled “Localisation under the Looking Glass; a feminist perspective”.

Below is a blog recounting a most thought-provoking day of learning, written by our DCU student volunteer Muirenn Mulholland.

Luck seemed to be against us last Tuesday. The morning was dark, wet and stormy. However, it turned out to be a bright and hopeful day, thanks to our wonderful speakers & attendees!

“Localisation under the Looking Glass; a feminist perspective”, brought to us first-hand testimonies of women-led humanitarian work in disaster affected areas around the globe. The discussion focused on women’s efforts in humanitarian responses, how their roles often go unnoticed and what can be done to change this issue.

The event also focused on the process of ‘Localisation’ – which is working in partnership with affected populations and devolving power & funding from international and national to local level.

The keynote speakers, Claire Bleasdale (ActionAid Kenya) and Naomi Tulay-Solanke (Feminist Humanitarian Network, Liberian Women’s Network) were not only heart-felt and passionate, but also informative and gave us as an audience much to consider when discussing the work involved in humanitarian responses and how we look at the developing world, especially in the west. After their speeches, we divided up into groups for the workshop / consultation portion of the seminar. Three questions were offered up for discussion and debate;

1) What do we mean by localisation and why is it so important that it be women led?

2) What (if any) are the major shifts towards female led local decision making since the World Humanitarian Summit and the Grand Bargain? Are they getting support from their governments?

3) What can NGOs do to make sure power shifts take place in favour of women’s community-based organisations?

Muirenn presenting her group’s discussion findings

Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the presentations and conversations that ensued. Rich discussion was added to by a number of international students from UCD who were present. They noted that they were from so-called “Developing Countries” and they drove home the point of localisation even further. They reinforced how localisation should be a ‘given’ and that involving members of the local community who have been affected by disasters/humanitarian issues is so important as it builds resilience skills and well-being.

The main take away from our conversations seemed to be just how important localisation is in a humanitarian context- involving the communities we wish to aid. The inclusion of local people and local solutions in response to humanitarian issues, working with them and supporting the work they do over a longer period. Not only this, but also to acknowledge the work that women do in these situations which often goes unnoticed. If women are involved in the humanitarian aid process, they must also be involved in the decision-making process.

The day ended on a promising note, with many of us hopeful to see the change necessary to improve the acknowledgement of humanitarian responses led by women.

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